We started BetaReader.io because we needed a better way to test books, but what we built turned out to be very helpful for testing any kind of story. So it wasn’t all that surprising that New Forest Film Co, a film and TV series production company, decided to use the platform. We sat down with Simon David Miller, founder of New Forest Film Co, to hear more about how they use beta readers when developing new films and TV series.

Tell us a bit about New Forest Film Co. Who are you and what do you do?

– New Forest Film Co is a new production company using the Agile processes of tech startups to produce better film and TV in a better way. Our motto is Mira Arte Simul. It means Astonishing Art Together. A core part of our process is to create film and TV prototypes which we test on audiences all the way through their development and production life cycles, from inception to distribution.

How important is beta reading in your publishing process?

– We test film and TV concepts in a variety of ways. One particular way is to turn our scripts into novels and novellas so that we can test on audiences who don’t often (if ever) read scripts themselves. It’s incredibly important for New Forest Film Co to test everything we create with audience, and beta reading is a key mechanism for us.

How many beta readers do you usually invite to a project?

– We continue to experiment to discover the optimum and minimum number beta readers for our projects. For our video-based prototypes which can be watched by audiences, and poster prototypes, the number of testers can be in the thousands. For book-based prototypes, the commitment of readers is higher. Currently, depending on what we need to test, the number of beta readers per draft is minimum of 10 and maximum of 200.

What do you usually look for when beta testing a manuscript?

– We aim to collect as much data as possible, looking at line-by-line commentary and reactions, chapter commentary, survey results and reviews. It’s important for us to understand reactions by audience groups, so we aim to gather demographic and interest information on each beta reader to enable us to at least roughly segment our responses.

Have you gained any insights from your test on BetaReader.io that will affect the final result?

– A great many. Everything from the smallest adjustments like misspellings and typos, to plot and character development and clarity. Thankfully we’ve received a great response to UNBROKEN ISLES and GHOST HEART on Beta Reader and the overall review scores themselves have been incredibly useful as we build support for the stories as books and film/TV series.

Can you share some tips with other publishers and authors who are thinking about starting to use beta readers?

– We recommend adding a foreword in BetaReader.io which we have used to communicate directly with beta readers to let them know what we were aiming to achieve before they begin to read. We have recruited readers in all kinds of ways, advertising on social media for interested readers, paying for more professional beta readers, bringing in trusted readers and influencers. Depending on the scale needed, it’s worth experimenting with all those routes since there’s an opportunity to build long-term support for the books as you test.

Would you recommend other publishers and authors to use BetaReader.io? Why / why not?

– Yes. We wholeheartedly believe that it would be better for the publishing and media industry, and audiences, if more ways can be found to improve stories iteratively with genuine feedback from real people, and if decision-making in the industry can be widened by enabling authors to gather proof of audience interest in order to justify publication and distribution with real data, rather than at the whim of distant executives.

New Forest Film Co is a UK based production company set on changing the way films and TV series are selected and produced. They are currently testing Unbroken Isles and Ghost Hearton BetaReader.io.

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